David M. Frank

Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow

My research and teaching focus on environmental ethics, philosophy of biology, and philosophy of the social sciences.

In December 2012 I received a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. My dissertation ("Values and Decisions in Biological Conservation") examined normative roles for game theory and decision theory in biological conservation, focusing on problems of cooperation and value trade-offs. My dissertation adviser was Sahotra Sarkar and I worked in the Biodiversity and Biocultural Conservation Laboratory from 2009-2012. In 2007 I received a B.A. in philosophy from Yale.
Research interests:
  • Environmental ethics (biodiversity, value pluralism and (in)commensurability, ethics of conservation and ecosystem management)
  • Philosophy of biology (conservation biology, philosophy of ecology, evolution of cooperation, epidemiology)
  • Philosophy of the social sciences (decision theory, game theory)
Recent and upcoming talks:
  • "From 'War Amongst Ecologists' to Uneasy Consensus: Science-Policy Interactions in the Biodiversity-Ecosystem Function Debate."
    • January 2014, University of Tennessee, Philosophy of Conservation Biology graduate seminar.
    • October 2013, NYU History of Science Working Group.
  • "Colony Collapse Disorder and Pesticide Regulation."
    • December, 2013, American Philosophical Association-Eastern Division. International Society for Environmental Ethics.
  • "Comments on Sahotra Sarkar's Environmental Philosophy: From Theory to Practice."
    • March, 2013, American Philosophical Association-Pacific Division.
  • "Definitional Risk and Biodiversity"
  • "Ethical Controversies in Biodiversity Conservation: Case Studies in Ecological Ethics and Social Justice."
    • March, 2012, NYU Environmental Studies and Bioethics.
    • February, 2012, Cal Poly Pomona, Dept. of Philosophy.
  • "Modeling Chagas disease risk in Texas: Idealization and multiple models for use."
  • "The ethics of systematic conservation planning: trade-offs and cooperation." University of Texas, Austin 2nd annual Sustainability Symposium, September, 2011. Watch on Youtube.
  • "Neuroeconomics, reductionism, and explanatory extension: the case of utility." ISHPSSB, July 2011, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
  • "Strong reciprocity, the folk theorem, and the division of cooperative labor." Evolution, Cooperation and Rationality II: Philosophical Perspectives, June 2011, University of Bristol, UK.
  • "Neuroeconomics as metaphysics and methodology: perspectives from philosophy and neuroscience." November, 2010, the International Network for Economic Method (INEM) conference, University of Alabama at Birmingham.
  • New York University:
    • Spring 2014:
      • Topics in Environmental Values and Society: Environmental Risk: Controversies at the Edge of Science and Policy (UG): In this course we will explore interactions between science, values, and policy in the assessment and management of environmental risks, drawing on decision theory, the psychology of decision-making, and the history and philosophy of science. We will address the following questions: How do humans perceive, measure, and model environmental risks? What are the scope and limits of decision theory in assessing and communicating environmental risks? What is the "precautionary principle" and when is its use justified? How do values and policy considerations influence the production and communication of scientific knowledge, and how should they influence environmental scientists assessing and communicating risks? Case studies may include risks due to climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and toxic chemicals, and nuclear waste.
      • Advanced Introduction to Environmental Ethics (Bioethics MA students)
    • Fall 2012, 2013, 2014:
      • Ethics and the Environment (UG): This course introduces philosophical ethics through an engagement with environmental issues of population growth and resource use, pollution and environmental justice, sustainability, non-human animal welfare, biodiversity loss, and global climate change. No prior experience with philosophy is required. The two main goals of the course are to provide students with a more sophisticated conceptual vocabulary to make and evaluate ethical arguments across domains and to engage students’ ethical reasoning and reflection on environmental issues in particular.
    • Summer 2014:
      • Philosophy of Psychopathology (Bioethics MA students): This course explores the idea that psychiatric categories of mental disorder are influenced by values and ethical considerations. We critically examine alternative disciplinary and theoretical approaches to psychopathology, drawing from philosophy of science, neurobiology, history and the social sciences, disability studies, critical race and gender scholarship, and the anti-psychiatry literature. We use these theoretical frameworks to inform discussion of contemporary debates about addiction, depression, autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit disorder, and anti-social personality disorder.
    • Spring 2013:
      • Topics in Environmental Values and Society: Philosophy of Environmental Sciences (UG): This course introduces some general issues in philosophy of science by showing how they arise in particular environmental sciences. We examine (i) the interpretation of models and uncertainty in climate science; (ii) ontology in the life sciences; (iii) the concept of biodiversity and prioritization in conservation biology; and (iv) values and ethical issues in environmental and ecological economics. Students should come away with a more sophisticated conceptual understanding of how these sciences work (their goals, methods, and limitations) and how philosophical issues arise within science more generally.
      • Advanced Introduction to Environmental Ethics (Bioethics MA students)